Help tackle the homelessness crisis with Greater Change

As the homelessness crisis in Oxford and the UK reaches new heights, meet the Oxford University team looking to crowdfund £48,000 to change how we support the homeless.

Written by Alex McCallion, founder of Greater Change.

Homelessness in Oxford is in crisis.

The latest street count shows that the amount of rough sleeping in the city has almost doubled in the last year. This crisis is also a national one, with homelessness rising rapidly around the country.

In Oxford, people want to help, but face problems in doing so. One of the main reasons for this is our increasingly cashless society, with many not having the change on them to donate. Even if they did, people worry their money will be spent on substance misuse. Tens of millions are given on the streets each year but very little of it is used in order to move out of homelessness — Thames Reach estimate that 80% of those begging do so to support a drug or alcohol addiction.

These issues are compounded by the stigmas around being homeless. People on the streets are largely voiceless. Without being able to share their story, people assume the worst, and a lot of goodwill and potential to change people’s lives is not realised. The result is that people live on the streets in freezing temperatures and are walked past thousands of times per day.

We’re building Greater Change — a cashless, secure mobile donation app — to be a potential solution to these problems. When a member of the public passes somebody who is homeless, they are able to help quickly and easily through one of two methods. The first method is they can help that person directly by typing in their name or scanning a QR code choosing an amount to contribute towards their savings goal and pressing send. The second method is they can give quickly and easily to local charities through the app.

To register for the app, a homeless person works with a support worker at a partner charity about what they need to save for in order to move on.

For example, people on the streets have told us they would use the system to save for: rent deposits, ID, work clothes, skills courses and tents. The support worker, who will ensure donations are spent on the agreed item, then uploads a profile to the system. The profile includes what the person is saving for and a name. If the person would like to share their photo and story, they can. The person is then given a small floor sign as well as a QR code.

The power to change lives this money would have if it was spent effectively would be vast. Furthermore, a huge amount of additional money would be given if people knew it was going to be spent effectively — Greater Change will facilitate this giving. We are gravitating towards a cashless economy and technology is changing the world rapidly, Greater Change is an extremely positive technological change, a change that stops the homeless being left behind in a digital world — help us make it a reality here:

You can follow the development of Greater Change over the coming months by following them on Twitter at @GreaterChangeUK. To see more from Oxford University Innovation, follow us at @OxUInnovation.